Title: That April in Santa Monica
Author: Melody DeBlois
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Madison receives acclaim for running a talent agency for people with disabilities, but she doesn't know how to take care of herself. When her altruism becomes life-threatening-a matter of either develop healthy habits or die-she joins a reality TV show that pairs her with hot, raven-haired Brandon. He is witty, sexy, and her teacher. That makes him off limits.
After a successful run on a soap opera, Brandon stepped away from empty fame and now focuses on his work as TV's most noted health teacher. He has one fast rule-never fall for a student. But when he meets Madison, their chemistry is combustible. There's no hiding their conflict or their attraction, especially when it's all caught on film.
Madison hadn’t slept well. Her dreams were like trying to see through a dark sheet of glass. She awoke to thirst and wandered downstairs for a drink of filtered water. She’d fallen asleep in her clothes. She ran her fingers through her disheveled hair.
She discovered Brandon slouching in the easy chair and did a double take. He didn’t have a candle before him, nor was his body in the lotus position. He simply appeared to be thinking, his eyes distant as he stared past her.
She snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Brandon, are you okay?” He didn’t look well. In the lamplight, she could see the shadows under his eyes as if he hadn’t had any sleep.
“Hi there,” he said, “I could ask the same of you. You left in quite a huff last night. Were you able to work through your anger?”
“It’s our last day together, our last morning.” You donkey, don’t you get it? Talk about clueless; he took the cake.
“I know,” he said and hung his head. “People get used to routine.”
“That’s right. It takes three weeks to form a habit.”
There was so much they were not saying, so much left undone.
His eyes were bloodshot, and he closed them as if not wanting her to see he looked like he’d been up the entire night drinking whiskey and shooting pool. “You probably are feeling a little afraid, Madison.”
“Big-time.” Her own voice sounded small, but then there was that knot in her throat…I want you to stay!
He slapped the arm of the chair. “I’ve got an idea.” He motioned to her, his face filled with that boyish wonder she’d come to cherish. “Let’s go watch the sunrise.”
“I’m game.” She followed him into the gunmetal darkness where the air didn’t stir, and the only sounds were of the ocean roaring in the distance. Harley had lumbered out behind her, licking her heels.
He said, “There’s a certain kind of freshness in the air. Do you feel it, do you smell it—tell me.”
She walked with him. “Always the instructor, even to the end.”
She was so close to him her thigh scraped against his, close enough to inhale that male testosterone that was exclusively Brandon Kennedy. Their fingers touched, sending a surge of electricity throughout her, making her miss a step. As if it were instinctual, he took her hand in his. She noted the texture of his rough palm against hers. No eyeballing cameras had snuck behind them to their destination. She had him all to herself. Imagine that? What she could do, if he let her.
They had front row seats, their backs to the misty waves. Harley, never a morning dog, rolled over in the sand and went back to sleep.
They took stock of the light show just getting ready to start. She shivered in the chilly morning air. Seeing her, he wrapped his arms around her, and she thought she’d do something dumb like tell him how much she cared. She couldn’t help laying her head on his mighty shoulder. It felt good to cuddle with him, natural and intimate.
He said, “The first thirty minutes of sunrise and the last thirty minutes of sunset, it is safe to look straight at the sun.”
“They’re always telling people not to take in the sun with the naked eye.”
“And it’s true, but the first and last half hour won’t hurt you. In fact, it’s the great healer of the mind and the body. Don’t you feel the sun’s energy balancing and healing you?”
What Madison felt was Brandon’s body heat radiating through her, tightening her muscles, skimming up her spine. That kind of warmth should come with a warning—exposure might cause side effects. Maybe she could have blamed it on chemistry or like attracting like—called it a lethal injection. She was dying for want of him.
She managed to say, “I see a halo around the sun.”
“Feel it vibrate?” he asked, turning to look at her, and his eyes turned molten-blue. Somehow, she didn’t think watching the sky had anything to do with it.
The heat had gathered at the sweet place between her legs—another side effect of her being close to him. If this didn’t end up in a kiss, she didn’t think she’d be able to bear it.
Drawing in a long shaky breath, she said, “I do feel the vibration.” Oh, did she!
“Being out in the middle of nature, with the birds and the sea creatures, it does something to a person, don’t you think?”
“Amen to Mother Earth,” she said dreamily.
“There’s harmony in the sounds.” His breath seemed to have caught in his throat.
“Yes, a more beautiful melody could not exist.”
“Do you feel your eyes blur? It’s the sun cleansing you.”
Cleansing? Try heating up as if some crazy so-and-so had switched on the gas. She moaned, “My eyes have become pools of marvel.” No, that wasn’t right. They were pools of longing, no mistaking it.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Confined to her house for two months, Madison becomes a much better version of herself. In these Covid-19 times, this story about creating a healthier lifestyle while rediscovering nature and learning to slow down is more relevant than ever.
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Born in California, award winning author, Melody DeBlois follows the sun. When she isn’t swimming laps, she’s writing sweet and sassy romances. Her heroines are self-reliant and smart and her heroes are kind by nature and love dogs. She lives in California during the summer and spends winters in Arizona with her husband. She has plotted her novels while hiking the beach or trekking across the desert. Her most treasured possession is family.
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